The first knee replacement is still doing a great job – after 17 years!

Photo of a man doing Nordic walking

Norman, 59 years old

“It has always been very important to me to have a good relationship with my doctor. What is routine for the doctor was a major procedure for me.”

In about the year 2000, my knees started to hurt more and more often. My knees were examined and x-rayed, and I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

The left knee was in slightly worse shape than the right. We first tried to strengthen the muscles and improve my mobility with physical therapy.

It still gradually got worse, though. I started having more trouble walking. Climbing the stairs was always painful. I always led with my right leg to take the strain off my left leg. Of course, that ended up putting more strain on my right knee.

All sorts of different examinations were done and various things tried out, like injections into my knee and keyhole procedures. The effects were only ever short-lived.

My first knee replacement

My doctor and I then decided in 2004 that I should have a total knee replacement in my left, worse knee first. Everything went brilliantly! My knee seemed to almost become more and more mobile with every hour after the operation. It was incredible!

I felt very well taken care of by the doctor treating me, and the whole team was very attentive.

After my stay in hospital, I went to a rehabilitation program where I carried on doing exercises to improve my knee’s mobility. The new knee was doing brilliantly! I could climb stairs normally again. That took the strain off the right knee and we were able to put off an operation on it for a few years.

I wanted to wait with the operation on the other knee for as long as possible because an artificial joint doesn't last forever. But progress is being made in medicine all the time and, depending on the circumstances, a prosthesis can be replaced several times.

There were problems with my right knee

After about seven years, my right knee then had to be operated on and an artificial joint fitted. I did have some problems after that procedure, though.

A few days after the operation, I took a slightly longer walk using crutches. My knee suddenly swelled up in the evening. I thought I had probably overdone it. That wasn’t the reason, though. My knee carried on swelling up and was increasingly painful.

Further operations and antibiotics were needed

The reason was that had got into the knee. The doctors decided they had to do more surgery. After that, everything looked good at first. But my knee swelled up again overnight. They had to open it up once more, rinse it, and treat it with . Thankfully, that then worked.

Nobody could really explain why the knee had become infected. After those treatments everything calmed down, though, and it's still in perfect working order today.

It was the same surgeon as with the first knee. The hospital team was very attentive again. At times there were three doctors by my bedside and a microbiologist was also called in to make sure the right were used. I felt very well looked after by the doctor and in the hospital.

It always felt a little strange at first

The operated knees felt strange after the surgery. I could feel a difference in the knee, as if something was stuck in there. That lasted for about two or three weeks. Your entire knee is a little unsettled and off kilter following the surgery, if you know what I mean. But with exercise it got back into the groove again, and it no longer felt like I had something in my knee.

After the operations, my knees were first moved in a controlled way using dynamic splints. These devices are set to a certain angle that the knee can be bent to. And then it happens automatically. That was good, because I would have been worried about moving it too much otherwise.

I lost 15 kilos

I have had rheumatoid arthritis for over 30 years now and have developed diabetes. Then the osteoarthritis of the knees on top of that. And I was overweight, too. At some stage I realized I had to lose weight. Every extra kilo takes its toll on your knees.

Once I had made that decision, I changed my diet. I was more mindful of what I ate, reduced my portions and stopped snacking. But all without torturing myself. As the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. I lost 15 kilos in about a year and a half, and have pretty much stuck to that weight ever since.

Both knees have allowed me to lead a normal life for years

The first knee replacement is still doing a great job – after 17 years! The right knee has been in for eleven years now and there are a few little niggles, probably because of the difficulties when it was fitted. It still works very well overall, though.

I had a completely different life after the operations! Before the surgery, my bones were rubbing against each other and I was in agony. The artificial knees allowed me to live a normal life again. The pain was gone, which was a huge relief! I could climb stairs and do sports again. Of course, some sports are best avoided. I've never been skiing, and it probably wouldn’t be a terribly good idea to start now. That doesn't bother me.

Exercise and fear of falls

I keep my knees moving as much as possible in daily life and I do a lot of Nordic walking. I lead a totally normal life overall and don't feel restricted. I have the odd twinge now and then, but nothing dramatic.

I'm always a little worried about having a fall, though. That could damage the joints. I'm certainly more careful than I used to be. I always use the banister when I go up or down the stairs, for example.

I was involved in the decisions

I was always involved in the decisions that were being made about my knee treatments. That was important to me from the get-go. My doctors discussed the various options with me. We then made a joint decision about what we would try out to avoid having a knee replacement. It was the same later, when we had to decide about going ahead with the operations. I also spoke to my orthopedic specialist about which doctor in which hospital would be best for me.

You ought to feel comfortable with your doctor and in the hospital

If you don't feel comfortable with a doctor or a hospital, I think you should search around until you have a better feeling. Lots of doctors and hospitals offer artificial joint procedures. You should take the time you need.

It has always been very important to me to have a good relationship with my doctor. What is routine for the doctor was a major procedure for me. I think the patient-doctor chemistry has to be right, and greatly influences how successful the treatment is. I also think it's important that you're fully in favor of having the surgery.


Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Created on January 12, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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